Dear Mr. Smithee: I have heard that "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is the first singing role in a movie for Johnny Depp. Was he not doing the actual singing in his role for "Cry-Baby"?
ED FUNK, MINNEAPOLIS
Dear Just Sing ... Sing a Song ... Make it Simple: That was definitely Johnny Depp's face in John Waters' 1990 "Cry-Baby," but the singing came from the mouth of vocalist, instrumentalist, songwriter and actor James Intveld, whose name did not appear in the film credits. If you'd like to hear Intveld on some of his recent CDs, go to www.jamesintveld.com.
P.S. You get recipes and wisdom from "How To Cook Your Life" and an "Ask Alan Smithee" T-shirt.
Dear Mr. Smithee: I'm counting on you to explain why Ang Lee's beautiful "Lust, Caution" got not a single Oscar nomination. The cinematography was superb, as was the original soundtrack. The performances were solid, the art direction incredible. Is it because the box office wasn't big enough?
JOYCE ALARCON, ATLANTA
Dear Says You: If I understand correctly, you are wanting me to enter the minds of the academy's foreign film selection committee and Oscar voters to determine why they like one film over another.
My dear, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is best described as the rambling, running, fish-out-of-water, people-devouring beast in "The Host."
There is no ready answer behind the result of what they do other than that it is done with unbending determination as a means toward self-illumination for Joyce, all her friends, everyone she knows and everyone on the planet she doesn't know to humbly bow toward.
But I can say this: "Lust, Caution" wasn't going to get a foreign language film nomination no matter what. The all-knowing academy determined some time ago that not enough of the movie's hard-working filmmaking team was from Taiwan, the country that attempted to submit it for consideration.
That's a no-no in the academy's rule book. Taiwan, which previously submitted Lee's Oscar-winning "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," had to step back and bring forth another film.
You want to know why?
Because commandment No. 5 in the eligibility section of the academy's Rule 14 for special instructions regarding the best foreign language film category states ever so bluntly, "The academy will make the final determination in all questions of eligibility."
Regarding other categories, one must suppose that perhaps voters felt that while "Lust, Caution" might be beautiful and superb and solid and incredible, it was also long and, beyond the bed, boring.
As for box office, you are correct that "Lust, Caution" didn't earn much. But as every Oscar enthusiast is well aware, the voters could care less how much money a film has made. If they did, it would have spelled trouble for "There Will Be Blood," "Atonement," "Michael Clayton" and "No Country for Old Men."
P.S. You get "Bambi" notepaper and an "Ask Alan Smithee" T-shirt.
Dear Mr. Smithee: There was a question on "1 vs. 100" the other night that never got answered. Maybe you can help. At $20 million, what is the highest-grossing NC-17 film?
KEVIN MCCOY, NORCROSS, Ga.
Dear I'll Always Take Easy Queries for $1,000: The answer is without question 1995's glorious, oversold, best/worst glitter party and career killer known as "Showgirls."
And so that you'll be better prepared upon the next moment you plop yourself in front of the idiot box, Kevin, here are the other top moneymakers:
R - "The Passion of the Christ" at $370.78 million.
PG-13 - "Titanic" at $600.78 million.
PG - "Star Wars" at $460.99 million.
G - "Finding Nemo" at $339.71 million.
P.S. You get a special "The Spiderwick Chronicles" book and an "Ask Alan Smithee" T-shirt.
Is there really an Alan Smithee? That's one he won't answer. But he does allow that it's a name used for crediting purposes when directors want to disassociate themselves from a movie that, well, stinks. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and daytime phone number.